By Ron VandenBoom
Mike Parr sat in a room with a group of other young people listening to several church missionaries.
"How many in the group are missionaries?" the speaker said.
Parr, believing that if you're a Christian you're a missionary, immediately raised his hand.
"I was the only fool that raised his hand," Parr said. "But I was right."
Parr said the speakers patted him on the back and made him feel good about the experience. It was a key moment that pushed him one step closer to becoming a minister a minister who now, more than 30 years later, has taken the helm of Van Orsdel United Methodist Church in Havre.
Parr said that after his experience with the missionaries, he made a pact with God to become either an English teacher, basketball coach or a preacher. Although being a preacher won out, Parr said, he still sees English and sports as passions. He has coached youth baseball and basketball in other communities and said he may at some point become involved in similar activities in Havre. He also likes to read, is a lover of canoeing, and also enjoys hiking, biking, camping and skiing.
Parr is also a stained-glass artist and over the years has taught classes on the subject.
Parr, a fifth-generation Montanan and Billings native, married his wife, Jeannie, while they were attending Rocky Mountain College in Billings. He graduated from the Lliff School of Theology in Denver in 1974 and has ministered to several congregations since that time in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
For three years, until 1985, he served at the Rohrer Memorial United Methodist Church in Big Sandy. Before coming to Havre he served the United Methodist Church in Shelby. Parr arrived in Havre the last week of June and held his first official Sunday service on July 1.
"I really liked Shelby," Parr said. "But Havre's a bigger city and it's a bigger church with bigger opportunities."
A certain amount of culture shock accompanied the move from Shelby to Havre.
"My wife was thrilled to go to a grocery store and find so many things to choose from," he said, adding that he couldn't believe the number of taco restaurants in Havre. "My wife couldn't wait to get a taco after we arrived."
Jeannie Parr is trained as a orthodontist technician. She is known for her singing voice and work in theater productions and musicals. Most recently she performed in "Bye Bye, Birdie" in Shelby.
The Parrs have been married for 31 years and have two grown children Darin, who works as a chef in Santa Fe, N.M., and David, who is a student in Washington state majoring in elementary education and child development. He also works as a "barrista," serving fancy coffees, Parr said.
Parr said he wants to continue the good things Van Orsdel represents to the community. He said he probably has some experience, gifts or abilities that he may be able to use when and if they're appropriate.
"I don't come into a church with an agenda," he said. "I'm new and this church has been here for 110 to 120 years. They have a history and these people have been doing things; they're not starting from scratch. I just have to get on board and ride the train with them."
Since arriving at his new church, Parr has found the people to be really nice and very cordial.
"I haven't met anyone yet that I didn't like," he said.